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Because they play on a team with such a highly regarded player in Miss Soccer candidate Lexy Hazle, senior left wing Emily Richardson and sophomore right wing Dani Wilson sometimes get ignored by the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers’ opponents.
And when that happens, the duo tends to make teams pay.
“Lexy’s a really good player. She’s strong and skilled, but Emily and Dani really work hard on the outsides to feed her the ball because they know she can do those things,” Elizabethtown senior center defender and captain Abby Patterson said before Monday afternoon’s practice. “They really do a lot of the dirty work and not that they don’t get credit for it, but people see Lexy scoring. And they handle it well because they don’t necessarily get the spotlight.”
Take Saturday night for example. Louisville Assumption kept a keen eye on Hazle, the lone attacker in Elizabethtown’s 4-5-1 formation. However, it was Wilson who assisted Richardson on the winning goal as the 10th-ranked Lady Panthers stunned the fourth-ranked Rockets, 1-0 in the KHSAA Girls’ Soccer State Tournament quarterfinals at Lafayette High School.
“At the time, I didn’t know it was going to be the winning goal. It was the first goal and it was still pretty early, so I figured we’d maybe get more or vice-versa,” Richardson said. “But I felt pretty good when the game was over. It’s nice to say we finally beat Assumption – and I scored.”
Elizabethtown had beaten Assumption just once in the teams’ previous 10 meetings, so the Lady Panthers had a lot of frustrations to atone for Saturday night.
“We didn’t take this game as lightly as they might have. We came prepared, maybe overly prepared even, but we were ready to play,” Richardson said. “And I think they were thinking we weren’t as great as caliber to have that big of a competition with us. And we came out ready to win.”
Wilson has been clutch in her own right. She scored the only goal in a 1-0 win Aug. 29 at 17th District rival Central Hardin, which allowed the Lady Panthers to take control of the district seeding and allow Elizabethtown to avenge a 2-0 loss to the Lady Bruins in the championship game of last year’s 5th Region Tournament.
“Lexy is a good target player and she combines well with one, while the other one makes runs. And they do it so well, it looks like they’ve played with each other for years. They just read each other so well,” said veteran Central Hardin coach Hal Bender. “They certainly have a chance to bring it home.”
Hazle agreed that all three members of the trio have a good chemistry.
“I couldn’t do it without them because most of my assists have come from them,” Hazle said. “I think we have been working hard at practice and we’re able to connect and find each other. It’s really coming together right now.”
Hazle leads the team in goals (28) and assists (23) heading into Wednesday’s 6 p.m. showdown with reigning state champion Covington Notre Dame in the state semifinals at Lexington Paul Dunbar.
Richardson has 23 goals and nine assists in 24 games.
“I think people probably underestimate her,” Hazle said of Richardson. “She’s tiny, but she’s determined to get to every ball that’s played to her and finish every opportunity she has.”
Wilson has 11 goals and 10 assists and is the only member of the team outside of Hazle who has at least 10 goals and 10 assists.
“We’ve got a pretty awesome trio up front,” said Pat Black, Elizabethtown’s interim coach. “They know what they’re doing and they have the skill and the athleticism to do it.”
That trio has been especially awesome in the postseason. Wilson has five assists and four goals, while Richardson has recorded a point (goal or assist) in nine consecutive games. In the Lady Panthers’ seven postseason matches, Richardson has seven goals and six assists.
“Somebody’s got to do that work behind the scenes and I’m fine doing it as long as my team is successful,” Richardson said. “I don’t need any special treatment or anything like that I guess. As long as my team is winning, I feel that’s all that matters.”
Having her lucky shin guards matters, too. She spent several minutes before practice looking for them. Hazle looked through Richardson’s bag and found a few other pairs of shin guards, but Richardson noted those were not the lucky ones.
“Oh, you heard that?” Richardson said with a laugh. “They’re probably at home somewhere.”
Wilson was at home Monday. She was coughing up a storm last week following a 4-1 home win over Louisville Mercy in the Lady Panthers’ state tournament opener and was still fighting the sniffles Saturday.
Black said Wilson has been under the weather for about a month or so, but he knows what type of effort he’s going to get out of her when she’s healthy enough to play.
“Regardless of how she is feeling, she’s always going to give everything she has,” Hazle said. “I think we need her out there. She’s going to do great for us whether she’s sick or not and I think she’s going to be well-rested for Wednesday’s game.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.